Four Accomplishments Active Archives Must Deliver in Healthcare

August 3rd, 2021 by Shannon Larkin, VP Marketing & Business Development, Harmony Healthcare IT

Active archives in healthcare need to be at the top of their game as lifecycle data management requirements and increased regulations demand agility, responsiveness, and security.

Long-term data management in healthcare must support a wide variety of system/data types, a multitude of data formats, heed the regulations from the specialty, state, and federal levels and provide improved user workflows.

Here are four major accomplishments that active archives must deliver in healthcare settings:

  1. Accept multiple types of systems/data – Clinical records can contain traditional office visit and PAMI (Problem, Allergy, Medication, and Immunization) data such as fetal monitoring, odontogram dental records, lab reports, and others that each has specific rules and retention requirements. Plus, business and financial records make up an important segment of the healthcare data portfolio. As healthcare employs more people in the United States than any other industry, it must retain HR and business records for upwards of 30+ years, according to guidelines. With consolidation in the industry, healthcare organizations, on average, have accumulated 10 different electronic health record (EHR) systems, managing 18 different vendors across inpatient and outpatient settings. This practice leaves the organization vulnerable to technical and security risks. In a recent Health Information Management & Systems Society (HIMSS) survey, 80% of respondents report their organizations are using unsupported legacy servers (sometimes multiple systems). For the active archive, this all adds up to a lot of data, coming from many different systems with a multitude of retention requirements.
  2. Work with a variety of data formats – Beyond the different systems, the active archive must accommodate many types of structured, unstructured, and audit data formats. This requires a team of data handling experts that can maintain the integrity of the structured health data that is stored in various formats as well as unstructured data such as radiology image files, pathology slides, video, audio, PDF files, physician’s notes, and emails. As demands for population health continue to increase, healthcare organizations need to ensure their unstructured and structured data is available and readily accessible to be analyzed and shared to improve outcomes. Bottom line: The active archive needs to be ready to systematize, organize and make available to users a wide variety of data formats.
  3. Comply with medical record retention and destruction requirements – Active archives support 24/7 ongoing access to the complete patient record which maintains compliance with retention regulations. However, it’s not as simple as just extracting all legacy data into an archive. Industry experts suggest that 30-40% of unstructured data in storage could be categorized as ‘ROT’ or Redundant, Obsolete, and Trivial data. That said, it is recommended that providers create a medical record retention policy that ensures the organization stays on track with state and licensing agencies as well as be prepared for record release inquiries from patients, payers, auditors, law firms, and other entities in the coming years. As that policy often includes guidelines around the destruction of medical records at designated times based on specific criteria, the active archive must include a rules engine that can accommodate the purging of records.
  4. Improve user workflows – The active archive must perform for each hospital user type it serves such as clinicians, the HIM and revenue cycle management team, researchers, legal and compliance officers, and human resources. Perhaps the largest and most important workflow advantage of an active archive is the single sign-on feature which provides clinicians with immediate access to the complete medical record within the active EHR. This is a game-changer as physicians report they are spending more time with their EHR than with their patients. Active archives support improved workflows in many departments within the healthcare enterprise: HIM – with release of information, addenda, and record purging/destruction
    Clinical – with access to the comprehensive medical record from within the go-forward EHR
    Revenue Cycle – with collection workflows and agency management for accounts receivable wind down
    Human Resources – with access to employee records such as W2s, payroll, time/attendance, OSHA, exposures, etc.

Active archives are well-positioned to support healthcare’s evolving needs for long-term data management. As healthcare providers move forward, the active archive is a vital tool for retaining patient, financial, and business records.


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